With the NBA Draft fast approaching on June 28, we at Bright Side of the Sun want to cover all the bases regarding the possible players who the Suns could draft with the (likely) #13th pick.
With only 6 players under contract and nobody who qualifies as untouchable, the Suns may be in a position where they choose to draft the best player on the board regardless of position. The subject of the following review may just be that player if he is available when the Suns are on the clock.
NBA draft coverage continues with a look at Terrence Jones from the NCAA champion Kentucky Wildcats.
Jones is a 6'9" 245 lb. power forward with an NBA ready body and a skill set that compares favorably to many premiere NBA big men. While his offensive game lacks polish, it appears he is capable of being an above average, if not exceptional, defender at the NBA level.
Jones has great mobility for his size and may be able to split time between the 3 and the 4 depending on matchups. He is capable of running the floor to get easy transition baskets and has good ball handling skills for a big.
Judging from what has been described so far, this doesn't sound like a player that is usually available at the back end of the lottery. Test your vertical to find out why it's possible he might be and whether he is a good fit for the Suns.
Here are Jones's college statistics:
Why Jones is gone before #13
Jones has great mobility for a player his size. I think he has the ability to run the court similar to a player like Josh Smith (who many here have seemed enamored with recently), but he already has 20 pounds on Smith (245-250lbs. from different sources) at the age of 20. While some look at his lack of ideal power forward height as a possible weakness, his versatility with his mobility and physique may allow him to defend multiple positions and shift between the 3 and the 4 to exploit matchups.
At 6'9" (with shoes), Jones is only average height (to slightly smallish) for a power forward, but blessed with a 7'2" wingspan and above average jumping ability, he is still a legitimate shot blocking threat. Jones blocked nearly two shots a game in both of his seasons at Kentucky and shot blocking (like rebounding) tends to transfer fairly well to the next level.
Jones's wingspan and leaping ability also translate into him being a very effective finisher at the rim. He can play above the rim in traffic for put backs and rebounds. He has the ability to throw down highlight reel, crowd inciting dunks (does anybody else still remember what an alley-oop is?). He would be a panacea for one of the Suns biggest weaknesses - their paucity of athleticism. In addition, this enables Jones to forecast as an above average rebounder at the NBA level. While his rebounding numbers dipped slightly in his sophomore season, that may have been in part to the Anthony Davis effect.
Jones already has the pedigree of receiving the tutelage of John Calipari for two seasons at Kentucky and being part of a winning tradition with a final four appearance and national championship. On a side note, the Suns may have the perfect person to continue mentoring Jones, as it occurs to me they may have an athletic, versatile, mobile, 6'8" forward who plays pretty good defense and might be able to pass along a couple pearls of wisdom.
Even if Jones never blossoms into a veritable star, I could easily see a 15 ppg, 9 rpg, 1.5 bpg type of player that could couple with a good defensive center to form a truly imposing tandem in the middle for an NBA team.
Why Jones is still available at #13
Jones has decent height (the 6'9" is with shoes), but not great by NBA standards. There has been some speculation that he may be somewhat of a tweener at the next level. His style of play supports this as he at times plays like a stretch four on offense, settling for outside shots which he doesn't make with a high level of proficiency. In addition to the work Jones needs to put in on his midrange and outside shooting, he is still a poor free throw shooter.
Jones freshman campaign at Kentucky started with a feverish pace and tapered off as the season progressed. The Wildcats still advanced to the final four, and Jones returned to school despite being projected as a potential lottery pick. Jones sophomore season may not have helped his cause. Although advanced statistics show he was more efficient in many aspects, many felt he didn't show enough improvement or a natural progression.
The Kentucky Wildcat team he played for may have contributed to these deficiencies. With that much talent on the floor, it may have been easier for Jones to defer to his teammates or take a more passive role. The Wildcats could have 6 players taken in the first round of this year's NBA draft. Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Terrence Jones are slated to be lottery picks. Doron Lamb, Marquis Teague, and Darius Miller are likely mid to late first round picks.
Then, there's the elephant in the room. Despite Jones's numerous physical tools, there is concern about his mental makeup. Jones struggles to remain engaged and has suspect mental toughness. His play tends to be inconsistent from game to game, and even from half to half. It has been intimated that he "checks out" of games.
Going off of a couple different outlets, there is at least a possibility that Jones will still be available at the Suns current draft position. While Draft Express has Terrence Jones ranked 9th in their top 100 prospects, Chad Ford of ESPN has him at 14. As we all know, these mock drafts can vary widely.
This may be a power forward heavy draft. Besides Anthony Davis (projected to go #1 overall) and Thomas Robinson (projected top 5), there are 4 other power forwards that may be selected as lottery picks. Jared Sullinger, Perry Jones, John Henson, and Terrence Jones are all intriguing options and it is even possible they all might be gone by the 13th pick. Based on the supply, however, one or more of these players may be on the board.
There are two teams ahead of the Suns with multiple lottery picks (Portland and New Orleans). Portland already has Aldridge firmly entrenched as a starter, so it may not make sense for them to draft a back up using a lottery pick. New Orleans very likely will draft one power forward, but almost certainly not two.
The reasons that Jones might drop to the Suns are also some of the reasons the Suns might not take him. Jones will be a risk/reward pick to a certain extent. While his athleticism, defense, rebounding, and shot blocking make it hard to believe he will be a complete bust, his weaknesses make many wary that he won't reach his full potential.
Markieff Morris probably also factors into the Suns decision making process. Although they are not identical players, they still occupy the same basic position on the court. If Lillard or Marshall is available, do the Suns draft a different position based on need? What if Jones is higher than the point guards on the Suns big board, do the Suns draft the best player available?
Here's a quick rundown in review:
NBA size - check
NBA athleticism - check
Mobility/Runs the Floor - check
Shot Blocking - check
Rebounding - check
Finishing at the Rim - check
Outside Shooting - needs improvement
Post Game - needs improvement
Free Throw Shooting - needs improvement
Intangibles - the crux of the dilemma
Jones has most of the tools that can't be taught. Shooting can generally be worked on and improved. The real question seems to be whether he has the mental fabric to be an elite (or at least above average starter) player at the NBA level? If it weren't for that issue, Jones would probably be a top 5 pick instead of a player that might even slip to the Suns at 13. If he is still on the board when the Suns pick I would think he will draw serious consideration. What are your thoughts?
My unadultered, somewhat misguided, and certainly geographically tainted hatred for the San Antonio Spurs had dissipated over the last few years.
Certainly, the Phoenix Suns' clean sweep of the aging Spurs in the 2010 playoffs played a part in my transformation. Even when the Spurs beat the Suns easily over the past two seasons, it wasn't the same. The Suns have been noncompetitive as a team, rather than simply against the mighty Spurs. Even Spurs PG Tony Parker knew the jig was up. He said openly last spring that the Spurs were done winning championships.
Even this season, as the Spurs were inexplicably winning games like crazy again, my ire didn't get rankled. I watched the struggling Suns come close a few times, which in my mind meant that the Spurs were just squeaking by and likely would be exposed by younger, more-talented teams in the playoffs.
My hatred shifted to the pompous Lakers and Kobe Bryant's life long attempt to wash the 2006 playoffs from his mind by blasting the Suns in every game since. But you can never forget 2006, Kobe. It's always going to be there. And so my hatred for the Spurs faded, even partially replaced with a modicum of respect.
Then last night happened.
Game 1 of the Spurs/Thunder series brought me back to 2007 all over again. The Thunder are younger, fresher and more eye-catching than the Spurs. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden are unstoppable in their own ways and no less unguardable than the Nash/Stoudemire/Marion triumvirate.
Yet the Spurs found a way to frustrate every one of the Thunder stars in Game 1, and ultimately won the game convincingly despite being down for most of it.
Popovich's fourth quarter speech in the huddle even sounded reminiscent of a Game 1 2007 speech, in both cases when the game was in the balance. Last night it was "get nasty". Five years ago, it was "every rebound...every loose ball..." Both delivered with calm and certainty that his team would respond. And each time, they did.
As I watched the fourth quarter unfold, I couldn't help feeling a sense of deja vu. Spurs players taking charges. Thunder losing their cool, just a little bit. The star PG on the floor in pain. Ginobili gyrating to baskets, and fist-pumping his way to the free throw line for the and-1. And the Spurs take the lead, and don't give it up.
Game 1 of this hotly anticipated series between the Spurs and Thunder is in the books. And as usual, the Spurs have the upper hand. I sat there seeing the future unfold before my eyes. The Thunder will regain their footing in this series, but just long enough for the Spurs to rip the rug back out from under them. And the next time, it will be for good.
I hate the Spurs. Again.
The only question is who will play the Robert Horry role for the Spurs in game 4. All the other Spurs culprits are still in place.
Finally! The Western Conference playoffs start back up tonight as the Oklahoma City Thunder face the Spurs in San Antonio tonight in a battle of teams that are clearly the West's best. It's a contrast in styles between the old guard Spurs, led by proven veteran champions Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili plus a fantastic supporting cast, and the young, super-talented Thunder, featuring Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden.
It pains me to write this, but I want the Spurs to win the title rather than any of the other remaining teams. What do you think?
Summer has begun, classes are over and I have nothing but time on my hands (until I get a summer job anyway). So, armed with MySynergySports.com, I've decided to assign myself the task of going through the Suns' roster and breaking down the usage and success rate of each position group.
I've previously taken a look at the two centers on the Suns on both offense and defense. Now it's time to move on to the power forwards, and we'll begin again with offense.
Both Channing Frye and Markieff Morris had difficult years on the offensive end. Despite that, however, they still had their strengths and provided value to the offense.
I'm not going to give Hakim Warrick a full breakdown here because I don't feel like it is worth it, but for those that are interested he was good in the post but either sucked or barely contributed everywhere else.
Now, make the jump for a look at the two men that made up the regular rotation at the four this year.
First, allow me to explain in more detail the numbers I looked at. Here's a key for the terms Synergy uses:
Synergy Stat Definitions
• PPP – Points Per Play. A "Play" is always ended with a shot attempt, turnover or getting to the free throw line. PPP is the player’s total points, excluding technical free throws, divided by their total plays.
• Rank – This is where a player or team’s PPP ranks amongst their league peers. A player must have at least 25 plays for a given category in order to qualify for a league ranking.
• %SF - Percent Shooting Foul. This is the percentage of plays where the player or team drew a shooting foul.
• %TO – Percent Turnover. This is the percentage of plays where the player or team turns the ball over.
• %Score – Percent Score. This is the percentage of plays where the player or team scores at least 1 point, including any resulting free throws.
So these numbers track the raw results. They don't factor in everything, which is where the interpretation begins and where watching the games live helps.
The offensive categories are Isolation, Pick-and-Roll Ball Handler, Post-Up, Pick-and-Roll Roll Man, Spot-Up, Off Screen, Hand-Off, Cut, Offensive Rebound, Transition, All Other Plays and Overall. On defense, the categories are the same minus the Cut, Offensive Rebound, Transition and All Other Plays categories as there aren't really any individual defenders assigned on these plays.
With that out of the way, let's dive into the numbers.
Channing Frye: The Phoenix Suns' designated Long-range chucker. (image via NBA.com)
Channing Frye is known primarily as a spot-up shooter. His ability to stretch the floor is how he makes his money, and it’s what makes him so valuable in the Suns’ offense. However, as we all saw, he wasn’t very good at it last year.
Frye spotted up on 41.5% of his plays, which comes as a surprise to absolutely no one. But his PPP was only 0.96, which ranked him 163rd. He only shot 34.6% from beyond the arc, where 185 of his 280 spot-up attempts came from, and 36.1% overall. As a jump-shooter, he was rarely fouled and only scored 35.7% of the time. He was much better last year (1.13 PPP, rank 52), mostly due to his 41.7% shooting from 3-point range and his 120 made 3-pointers. And he was great in 2009-10 with a 1.18 PPP, a rank of 34 and 151 total made 3-pointers.
Frye also has a reputation as an incompetent post player, but the numbers do not support that assessment. 88 of Frye’s possessions came in the post, a distant second to his spot-up total. On those post touches, he averages 0.99 PPP, good for a rank of 14 overall. He shot 54% in the post and drew a foul on another 9%. However, he did cough the ball up pretty often (17 %TO). Overall, Frye scored 50% of the time in the post, which is a great number. We have to remember, though, that he has a smaller sample size than a lot of other post players, and many (I’d go so far as to say most) of his touches have come when Frye has a smaller player switched onto him. But still, he really was a bad post player in 2009-10, and he's made great strides in the last two years.
Although his most common play was to spot-up, Frye did a little of everything on offense. He saw the ball 64 times in the pick-and-roll (pick-and-pop half the time in his case) and while his PPP number is good (0.98, Rank 63), it is given a boost by his pick-and-pop 3-pointers (11-33 3FG). The 3-pointers actually hurt his %Score, though, as he shot 13-24 from inside the arc but only scored 39.1% of the time due to the missed 3-pointers and his 9.4 %TO rate.
Frye also saw 64 possessions while running off of screens, which is not a commonly used play for your typical power forward. It wasn’t a terribly effective play as his PPP was 0.67 and he only shot 30%, but that 0.6 was still good enough for 110th in the rankings.
Channing was also a threat in the open court, as he got the ball on 62 plays in transition. He scored 1.35 PPP which ranked him 24th, and he converted on 56.6% of his attempts. Overall he scored 58.1% of the time in transition.
Aided by his 3-point shooting, Frye’s overall PPP was 0.95 and he was ranked 114th despite his %Score only being 40.7%. So even in a poor shooting year Frye was still able to provide plenty of value to the Suns’ offense. He spaced the floor, scored in the post when he had an advantage and ran the floor hard. But looking back, Frye's 3-point range really makes him a valuable weapon for this offense. In 2009-10, his overall PPP was 107, ranked 19th. Last season, he was at a 1.05 PPP and ranked 36th. If he can find that stroke again, he'll be just fine.
Markieff doing his best Channing Frye impersonation. (image via NBA.com)
Markieff Morris was similar to Channing Frye in his versatility and the way he was used in the offense, but his inconsistency really hurt his overall numbers.
Morris was actually better than Frye in spot-up shooting. The rookie spotted up on 26.6% of his plays and finished with a PPP of 1.01 and a rank of 106. He only shot 38.9% from the field, although over 60% of his attempts were from beyond the arc where he shot 40.2%. 40% from 3-point range is a very good number, but unfortunately, it seems like most of those makes came in the first half of the season. Overall he scored on 39.6% of his spot-up opportunities, which was better than what Frye did this year.
19.2% of Morris' plays came via post-ups, and he ranked 78th with a .82 PPP. He only shot 39.3%, but he was also fouled on 8.7% of his touches. Overall, his %Score was 43.3%, better than both Gortat and Lopez. The rookie has potential in this area.
Morris was used as the roll man on 46 plays, and did quite well with a PPP of 1.09 and a rank of 31. That number is alittle skewed however by his limited sample size and the six 3-pointers he hit (out of 19 attempts). He only made 14 of his 32 attempts overall. He did draw fouls at a decent rate (15.2 %SF or seven total trips to the line), but he also turned it over five times. His %Score was 47.8%, better than Frye but not close to the two centers. These numbers tell me he probably provides more value as a pick-and-pop man than a pick-and-roll man.
Morris scored 44.4% of the time on 45 plays as a cutter, 56.1% of the time on 41 transition possessions, 36.6% of the time in 41 isolation situations, 50% of the time on 40 offensive rebounds and 30.3% of the time on 32 plays coming off a screen.
Overall, Morris finished with a 0.87 PPP ad a rank of 252, scoring 40.4% of the time. As a rookie, Markieff Morris was a jack-of-all-trades but a master of none. He showed ability in a lot of different areas, but he still has a lot of work to do. Most importantly, he needs to learn how to finish plays at a much higher rate.
The Suns have a pretty versatile pair of power forwards. They are both capable of stretching the floor and knocking down perimeter shots, but they are also able to step in the paint and make some things happen. However, the Suns will need much more from these two next year. They have to shoot better, plain and simple. The Suns can't afford to have them fail to connect at the rate they did this year.
I have faith in Channing Frye getting up plenty of shots this summer and returning to form, and Markieff Morris strikes me as the kind of guy who is going to put in the work to get better. Both of these guys should be valuable contributors next season, whether we bring in another power forward or not.
I'll leave you with this. I have no clue what type of play this happened on and I don't care. Enjoy.
Image via thehoopdoctors.com